In Thirteen Reasons Why, Hannah Baker is a high school student who commits suicide. Before she dies, she creates a series of tapes outlining what led up to her decision and makes arrangements for them to be sent to the people who played a role.
The author used the tapes to create a unique storytelling structure. Readers get the perspective of Clay Jensen, a guy who worked with Hannah and had a crush on her, as he listens to the tapes and reacts to what he hears.
This structure was creative and it added to the suspense. However, it was sometimes difficult to distinguish whether I was reading Hannah’s voice or Clay’s thoughts. I needed more than italics to keep the two perspectives straight. I felt that Clay’s perspective could have been more distinctive.
I’ve read other reviews that have criticized Hannah’s character for being self-absorbed or vindictive or questioning whether what happened to her was enough to cause her to make the choices she did. (Personally, I thought she endured a lot at a young age). But, to me, judgments about Hannah and her reasons miss the point of the book. This story is about how the choices we make and what we say or don’t say can have a profound effect on someone else.
The book isn’t perfect, but it provokes discussion. I admire the author for tackling a difficult subject that isn’t discussed enough and for creating a memorable story that makes us think about our impact on each other.
The story as a whole reminds the reader, “When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life.”